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Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2020 04:28PM
Hespire, that is a well put and well rounded, self-contained comment, with a guarded balance of both negative and positive personal views on Lovecraft. Leaving a neat and pleasantly complete circle, with little reason for approached counterargument.

How much of Lovecraft have you read?

A different opinion might be that Smith's outlook was actually even darker, and more pessimistic and cynical, than Lovecraft's. Lovecraft was closely attached to his historical heritage and culture, and found ecstatic pleasure from these surroundings. He dressed neatly, which is also an indication of at least partial wellbeing. I think he also had a lifelong and proud Hellenistic pagan outlook, and acknowledged the damage done to European culture through the tool of Christianity. He was very passionate about it. Smith did not seem to value a sense of cultural belonging where he lived (little wonder since it was the wild west); he was poor, mostly wore rags, and seemed to be even more depressed and obsessed with death, than Lovecraft was. That may be one explanation for his astounding and colorful imagination; that he needed to escape into fantasy, or a deeper essence. Lovecraft nurtured a philosophical detachment from sorrows. Smith did not do that. Smith was intellectually more open to the spiritual supernatural dimension, but I doubt that he was happier than Lovecraft.

Like most others, I chime in with the sign of these strongly polarized times, so as not to offend anybody, or step on anybody's toes, by making apology and saying that this is of course only my personal opinion.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 12:57PM
Hespire Wrote:
> He was the truest
> and strictest materialist I've ever encountered in
> literature, yet quite a few of his stories were
> clearly yearning for something beyond an empty
> black universe, even if he viewed this, perhaps,
> as simple aesthetic preference.

The first part of this sentence is true if you go by certain of his private letters. If you go by his fiction it is the second part of the sentence that is more relevant, IMHO.

HPL's fiction - the stuff he is actually famous for - cannot be said to be strictly materialist literature. His materialism did indeed influence his fiction, but was not the sole or even the main driving force behind it. He wrote fiction more to escape his philosophy than to indulge it. Call it a "simple aesthetic preference" if you like, but the final product was still the final product, and when he wrote it, he chose to suspend disbelief in things he refused to countenance when he wrote philosophical rants in his private letters.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 27 Jul 20 | 01:05PM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 01:03PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A different opinion might be that Smith's outlook
> was actually even darker, and more pessimistic and
> cynical, than Lovecraft's.

I would tend to concur with this view.

At least, that would be my assessment of the outlook of their works of fiction; setting aside the question of how well their respective works of fiction embodied their private philosophies.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 01:58PM
I hope I didn't offend you, Platypus. Online text doesn't often allow people to express the tones I can communicate with more easily in real life, so I can't tell if anyone is annoyed with my ignorance. I will readily apologize to anyone who feels I went too far in my previous post.

I never once implied that one author is darker than the other, and that this makes one superior to the other, I only said that in his fiction, Lovecraft is more often fearful of the fantastic things he portrays, which makes sense because Lovecraft often dealt with horror, a genre I don't usually enjoy, though I easily perceive the strengths of a good horror story and appreciate them as they are. Lovecraft is one of those good authors I simply can't enjoy to the same extent his fans can, not an author I hate or regard as poor. As for how much Lovecraft I've read, I can easily say I've read all his fiction, all his poetry, and several books worth of his letters, all of which I still cherish and admire even if I haven't been a Lovecraft enthusiast in ages. I find the man endlessly interesting and even admirable in ways, though perhaps I allow him as a person to eclipse him as a storyteller too often, if that's what Platypus is suggesting.

It is not necessary for anyone to explain to me that Smith is the darker author, because I did not argue otherwise. Smith is the one of the two who more often expresses misanthropic and even cruel feelings, and often portrays it bluntly, sometimes crudely, in his own fiction. And more often than Lovecraft Smith has an unsettling fascination for corpses, tombs, dying empires, cosmic oblivion, and the thematic interplay between love and death. These things aren't lost on me, but the way Smith approaches them appeals to me, and at times I can even relate with it.

Regarding Lovecraft and mysticism, I hope no one is under the impression I was mocking or dismissing Lovecraft. My simplification wasn't conscious on my part, and I felt I must have been doing Lovecraft good by acknowledging his private sentiments regarding mystic and religious ideas. Even if my attempt was poor, I did not try to mock him, I wanted to show respect to his materialist belief while acknowledging his transcendent yearnings.

I try not to express my opinions online very often, because even with my best intentions (like in my previous post, in which I tried to defend Lovecraft, with all the knowledge of him I had, while expressing my preference for Smith), I often cause trouble. I am sorry, to all of you, I promise not to post anything here because I don't wish to bother anyone.



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 27 Jul 20 | 02:40PM by Hespire.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 09:15PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I hope I didn't offend you, Platypus.

Not at all. I was merely expressing some thoughts that popped into my head. As far as I was aware, I was merely trying to exchange an idea or two. And I certainly hope you will feel free to disagree with anything I say without any fear of offending me.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 09:46PM
To elaborate on what I said before: If I were to pick a well-known author of fantastic fiction, whose fiction work was reasonably consistent with a strictly-materialist worldview, I think I would choose H.G. Wells.

I would not place HPL or CAS in the same category, as far as "materialism" goes. I would say that CAS comes closer more frequently. But CAS makes no particular effort to be consistent. See, for example "Schizoid Creator", which might be called blasphemous, but is certainly not materialist. It is just that CAS is less likely than HPL to go out of his way to insert obviously-supernatural elements into his stories.

Again, this is not an attempt to offend or be offended by anyone. They just be some thoughts that just jumped into my head.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 27 Jul 20 | 09:46PM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 05:37AM
Hespire, you have nothing to apologize for, for you certainly have not offended anyone. Your views on Lovecraft and Smith were sensible and balanced.

I was sarcastic in my previous post, and I apologize for that. I could perhaps have expressed myself differently and more civilized. But that did not concern your or others' opinions about these two authors, but was more an observation of the general times we live in. The night before I had been watching an old Jonny Carson interview from the 1970's with Oliver Reed, and Reed freely expressed his opinions. I feel that discussions and debates were much more lively in those days, and people were not afraid to speak their perspective and to clash with each other for having different views. The social climate is very different today, much more repressed. This fear of saying something outside of consensus, make people relativize themselves, and their own opinions, instead of passionately standing up for their own perspective. I affects even minor topics of communication. It affects my own behavior too. I find it sad. It makes life lukewarm and half-hearted. It can be seen in art too, which is more and more standardized, instead of expressive. I encourage people to break free from this repression.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 July, 2020 03:20AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Smith did not seem
> to value a sense of cultural belonging where
> he lived ...; he was poor, mostly wore rags, ...

I would like to modify that. Smith was able to dress up when called for, even in necktie. But was generally much more bohemian in style than Lovecraft. Lovecraft always dressed like a gentleman. Smith was eccentric, with big shirt collars spread widely over the shoulders of his jacket, looking almost like a mediaeval character.

I assume these differences in appearance is reflected in their different writing styles, although I can not define just how. Lovecraft was more methodical?, and mechanical? (although there is nothing intellectually mediocre or stiff about his writing), while Smith was more loose? No, I wouldn't say that either. And I don't think either one was ultimately better writer than the other. But one thing is for sure, Lovecraft would never have started a story similarly with an exclamation like this:

"'Why, you big ninny! I could never marry you,' declared the demoiselle Dorothée, only daughter of the Sieur des Flèches. Her lips pouted at Anselme like two ripe berries. Her voice was honey — but honey filled with bee-stings. ..."

--Clark Ashton Smith: "The Enchantress of Sylaire"

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 August, 2020 10:32AM
This will be more of an open question to the group, and it departs also, somewhat.

Below:

Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
>
> > Smith did not seem
> > to value a sense of cultural belonging where
> > he lived ...; he was poor, mostly wore rags,
> ...
>
> I would like to modify that. Smith was able to
> dress up when called for, even in necktie. But was
> generally much more bohemian in style than
> Lovecraft. Lovecraft always dressed like a
> gentleman. Smith was eccentric, with big shirt
> collars spread widely over the shoulders of his
> jacket, looking almost like a mediaeval
> character.

I come to the enjoyment of literature from the consumption of the works, alone, and if I read enough of any given author's work, I form up a sort of judgement on that body of work, and make any connections to other authors with whom I'm familiar--past, present, future--as they relate to the author under consideration.

Occasionally I may read *about* an author (Hemingway) or may read some correspondence, although I do very little of this.

Occasionally I may read scholarly explorations--if any exist--but since I'm reading to please myself, I don't place much importance in such commentary.

So my speculation about CAS's personal outlook, his life habits, his career trajectory are necessarily limited by the preceding explanation. I'd seen far too much of this as an English Lit undergrad.

With CAS, I read bits and pieces published that are about him, and have read a very few of his letters. For quite a while now I've felt that he had early success as an emerging young bohemian under the wing of Sterling in the early 20th C Pacific coast aesthetes' movement.

So he had a ready-made audience of appreciative and sophisticated readers of his poetry--since I get the impression that he thought of himself as a poet, first and foremost, and at that early stage, perhaps exclusively.


For reasons of which I'm unaware, this seemed to dry up early on, and at that point, with Sterling dead, and with no new sponsor, and possibly the disintegration of the bohemian circle of which he was a part, CAS was on his own to make a living.

I suspect that this was not as he had supposed his career would evolve. It probably seemed to the young CAS a huge and unaccountable set-back--arbitrary and threatening.

From this point he was forced by necessity into more commercial writing, and he augmented this with manual labor. He got married later in life, perhaps to find a sort of workmate to share the task of a modest survival. And essentially he died in this state: a marginal struggler who had a body of serious poetry that was, like most poetry written in the 20th C, of no commercial importance, and a significant amount of commercial prose into which his considerable poetic vocabulary, and an instinctive narrative skill, leaked. This combination produced some outstanding pulp content that rewarded the readers of popular escapist fiction with unexpected quality.

I think he, as a person, adapted fairly well to this early on (he seemed to not have had any great life expectancies as he was growing up) and basically just plowed along, writing pulp stories for a very modest living. Like newswriting, the necessity of producing work on a regular basis meant that his commercial output was of varied quality. Speaking to that, I first discovered his work in about 1969/70, in the Ballentine Zothique volume, and my readings are mostly limited to that series. These were selected and arranged by Lin Carter, and I now realize that these stories are probably among his strongest, most artistically viable stories. I've intermittently broken outside this subset of his work, but for the most part have been disappointed. It was during these forays that I formed the opinion that a lot of his commercial work was a simply uninspired effort to get a paycheck. I do not see this in Lovecraft's body of work nearly as much: there is no real variation in quality, but there is vast variation in themes and motifs that he explores, and this accounts for the varied appeal of some of his works.

Since these are only my opinions, I would welcome any thoughts/comments. It will help me to refine my view of CAS, and concomitantly, Lovecraft.



>
> I assume these differences in appearance is
> reflected in their different writing styles,
> although I can not define just how. Lovecraft was
> more methodical?, and mechanical? (although there
> is nothing intellectually mediocre or stiff about
> his writing), while Smith was more loose? No, I
> wouldn't say that either. And I don't think either
> one was ultimately better writer than the other.
> But one thing is for sure, Lovecraft would never
> have started a story similarly with an exclamation
> like this:
>
> "'Why, you big ninny! I could never marry you,'
> declared the demoiselle Dorothée, only daughter
> of the Sieur des Flèches. Her lips pouted at
> Anselme like two ripe berries. Her voice was honey
> — but honey filled with bee-stings. ..."
>
> --Clark Ashton Smith: "The Enchantress of Sylaire"

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

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